Foster excited by the ‘privilege’ of heading fight game’s return
> Unbeaten British boxer defends title against Beech > Warren misses event in TV studio with no spectators
British boxing returns tonight for the first time since March 7, with five fights behind closed doors in east London.
Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and broadcast partner BT Sport will deliver the event and there will be just 65 people allowed inside the broadcaster’s Stratford studios.
Warren yesterday confirmed four further shows would take place over the next seven weeks, including the return of heavyweights Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois, who will each headline events.
Warren, 68, will not be attending tonight, due to the reduced numbers in “the boxing bubble”. The 10 boxers, plus trainers, cornermen, medical staff, British Boxing Board of Control officials and television crew have been tested for Covid-19 this week before going into quarantine at a nearby hotel.
“I will be watching from home with a camera set up there for my reactions. I’m not going to let my ego get in the way of us doing the right thing,” said Warren. “I don’t know if this has been the most challenging process ever – I’ve been shot and had fights with people – but it has been challenging in that we have been in a no-man’s land because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“But what we are attempting to do is put on boxing again as quickly and as safely as possible. It is an expensive process, we have gone over the testing and cleaning in minute detail, and we are determined.”
Tonight’s headline contest sees Brad Foster, the British and Commonwealth superbantamweight champion, defend his titles against unbeaten James Beech Jnr.
Further events are planned at the BT Sport studios on July 25, July 31, Aug 20 and Aug 29, with five bouts on each card.
Foster, who has worked night shifts at Tesco while training every day during lockdown, headlined one of the last cards to take place in the UK. He said yesterday: “I’m just excited to get in there. I fought at the end of February in the last card and July’s come round and I’m back out again. Not many people get that turnaround [even] without being in a pandemic, and I’ve got it while we are in a pandemic. I’m blessed to be in this situation.”
The former kick boxer, unbeaten as a professional boxer, said: “A lot of people have asked me about no crowd. I get in the ring to win the fight, whether there’s a crowd there or not. The job is still the same. My opponent is a good fighter.
“Look how much people have missed the football. I’m privileged to be the first fight back. This is an opportunity for me to shine and show the world. There will be loads of people tuning in.”
It was confirmed this week that no professional boxers were tested by UK AntiDoping between April and June, as part of a reduced testing regime, but Robert Smith, Boxing Board general secretary, said yesterday that the boxers taking part would be tested today. Warren still aims to have the heavyweight fight between Dubois and Joyce in an arena on Oct 24. “Daniel and Joe returning is obviously huge news and scheduling these fights reflects our growing confidence that Daniel and Joe will be able to finally meet on Oct 24. They both wanted these tune-up fights first.”
Dubois meets Russian-born twotime Olympian Erik Pfeifer on Aug 29. Joyce takes on German Michael Wallisch on July 25.
Katie Taylor, meanwhile, will defend her lightweight world titles against Delfine Persoon in a rematch on Aug 22, it was confirmed by promoter Eddie Hearn.
Tonight’s event is live on BT Sport 1, 7pm-10pm.
‘This is an opportunity for me to shine and show the world. There will be loads of people tuning in’
Keeping busy: Brad Foster has worked night shifts at Tesco while also training for tonight’s fight